Spiritual Theme for July: Our Power of “And”

By Rabbi David

One common theme I’m hearing from many of us is the “split screen” feel of this time. It’s great to be together physically together – “and,” there’s apprehension. Much has been messy in our world – “and,” it’s a relief to enjoy summer. Both impulses (“and” many others) are real.

This commingling of our seemingly inconsistent thoughts and feelings points to a core theme on our Jewish calendar as we move toward Tisha b’Av and the High Holy Days. 

I’ll admit that I recoil at the mere mention of Tisha b’Av and the High Holy Days. I suspect you might, too. We’re already on the runway (Tisha b’Av starts July 17), “and” we’d rather enjoy the hazy lazy days of summer that just began. This year has been so turbulent that instinctively we crave ease. Who could blame us? Others of us feel so deeply the hurts and traumas of this turbulent year that we can feel stuck in those gears – and understandably so. By definition, trauma doesn’t see a future. 

“And,” the High Holy Day journey of ancient tradition, which soon we will renew in our own ways and days, will offer us a banquet of beauty. Awaiting us are personal invitations to joy higher than high, dazzling insights about ourselves and our world, pathways of meaning that can heal hearts and transform lives. The path forward will ask us to feel some of the emotions – whether high or low – that might feel muted or even impossible to feel now.

“And,” while I know all that, while I know that the High Holy Day journey is a journey of heart and not only a journey of time, I still resist writing these words. After so much effort for so long, can’t we just let things be? After so many dark months – dark literally, and dark inwardly – can’t we enjoy some time on the proverbial sunny side of the street? 

All of these impulses are real – our call to greet the journey ahead with excited enthusiasm, “and” our understandable reticence to actually undertake that journey.

When we humans experience competing impulses, we tend to respond in one of three ways. We might try to emphasize one (yippee, it’s the High Holy Days!), or the other (boo, leave me alone!), or toggle between them in some middling compromise. You’re probably experiencing one (or more) of those responses right now.

But especially this year, as we emerge both physically and emotionally, I invite all of us to try a different approach – not one or the other, and not a compromise path. Rather, what if we let ourselves fully feel both sets of impulses? What if we can become fully excited about the High Holy Days ahead – our communal renewal as a people, the beauty of the season ahead, our great soul reboot – “and” also feel our resistance, laziness, self-protection or even rebellion

What if we let ourselves feel it all? There’s a lot to feel – “and” especially so this year. There might be things we’d rather not feel, that we’re not yet ready to feel, that we’d rather forget. We might do all sorts of things to distract ourselves, to give ourselves a potent dose of amnesia. 

Let’s enjoy the summer for all that this season offers – long days, open air, fresh fruits and safe onsite gatherings are gifts worth enjoying – but not to dull us. Let the joys of all we can enjoy this high-summer month also begin to rouse our awareness. As we limber up, we’ll naturally begin to notice anew what it is about ourselves that we’d rather not see or feel, including our reticence to take that journey. Naturally, the days ahead will begin to tug at us.

Soon the shofar will blast for the first time – sooner than we imagine, “and” right on time.

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